Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/233/9264
Save The NHS: No to private sector vultures
DID YOU vote Labour at the general election in June? Would you back them again now? A new opinion poll by the GMB union says that half of those voters who supported New Labour then won't do so again unless Blair improves public services such as health and education.
77% of those polled said that hospitals and schools had either got no better or got worse since New Labour took office in 1997.
This week New Labour showed their real health priorities - giving private firms more chances to make profit out of ill-health. Health secretary Alan Milburn decided that the government would fund private health provider Bupa to run a surgical unit next to an NHS hospital.
Bupa will run, manage - and make profits from - an acute diagnostic and treatment centre. NHS patients will use it and taxpayers will pay for it.
Milburn says this move is in line with last year's "concordat" with "private providers". Then New Labour called the scheme "value for money" by making "better use of facilities in private hospitals", saying it would free up beds, staff, operations and money.
How would making profits for shareholders create "value for money" in the health service? Private hospitals and staff should be brought directly into the NHS.
New Labour have tried relying on private sector 'help' before. Britain's dirtiest hospitals are 'cleaned' by private-sector contractors - four out of the five trusts which run the ten dirtiest hospitals use private contractors to clean their wards.
Most of the NHS's capital spending, too, is done under the private finance initiative (PFI) but it doesn't bring new money into the NHS. The services provided by PFI are so expensive that hospitals have to cut beds and jobs in order to pay their bills.
Hospitals have to give repayments to the PFI consortium precedence over patient services. Barnet in outer London will pay £340 million over 30 years for a £55 million PFI hospital. In the longer term powerful private sector interests can dominate or even take over our hospitals.
No to private sector parasites! Health workers and NHS users must fight for a democratically run national health service, publicly run and financed and free at the point of use.
In The Socialist 7 December 2001: